Still more from the Department of Nomenclature

This started out as an addendum to a previous post, but grew enough to be sent out on its own.

Andrew Wasson, writing in Dairy River:

Given the general meaninglessness of suburban street names it is easy to dismiss them as devoid of meaning. Not so fast. Given the myriad of vaguely identical street names out there, it is just plain unlikely that so many names could turn out so similar. There must be a subconscious rubric. Their striking uniformity belies some pattern. Sort of like the time that guy tried to defend against plagiarism because his mind just happened to work like an encyclopedia. Suspicious.

Yet, the more one canvasses the universe of possible street names, the more one realizes that the canonical suburban street name typology only occupies a fraction of that universe. Consider a few neutral but rare examples. Body parts are usually disfavored. There are not many streets named after the kidneys or the liver, for example. In fact, streets are generally not named after scientific jargon of any discipline: Endoplasmic Reticulum Terrace, C. Elegans Street, Shannon-Weaver Theory of Information Drive. Although a biotechnology office park named the Golgi Complex would be rather sweet.

Indeed, although I wouldn’t expect anyone to try that in Real Life™. (Then again, Apple does its business from 1 Infinite Loop. The traffic is unbelievable.)

In Oklahoma City, you can name your north-south streets whatever you like, so long as your east-west streets appear to follow the grid, which simplifies matters for people who live in places like, say, the Rivendell subdivision, where new homes are going in at 130th and Doriath.

Austin, on the other hand, runs out of numbers after 56½, so different rules apply:

We are purchasing some acreage lots in Oak Hill, and I just found out that other buyers on my street don’t like the name of the street on which our lots are located and have requested the developer to change the name. The street name is ‘Sisquoc’, which I think is a cool name. Sisquoc is a Chumash Indian (from California) name that loosely means “stopping place”. There is a Sisquoc River in California. The developer told me other buyers thought it was too hard to say and spell. Jeez, give me a break! The street is now in the process of being renamed to “San Lucas”.

What with calls for traffic-calming all over Austin, I’m surprised that Speedway is still allowed to exist — although “Avenue E” wouldn’t be all that wonderful either.

Still, this Sisquoc thing led to some seat-of-the-pants research I found interesting:

[T]he Shady Hollow subdivision in South Austin has streets with names including ‘Shoot Out’, ‘Six Gun’, ‘Gun Fight’, ‘Ammunition’ and ‘Shotgun’.

Regrettably, none of those fall into the 1900 block; I would love to have seen something at 1911 Ammunition Drive.

I performed an MLS search for homes in Shady Hollow that have sold since 2000 [through mid-2006] which are located on the aforementioned streets with gun related names. There have been 71 sales on those particular streets. The average sales price is $179,677, which equals $98 per square foot. I then searched the rest of Shady Hollow, filtering out homes newer than 1993 since all of the aforementioned homes are built before 1993 and we don’t want to pollute the results with more expensive newer homes. There were 606 sales of homes with less overt western names. The average sales price is $225,713, which equals $103 per square foot. It appears that the homes with politically incorrect names do not sell for as much compared to other homes in the same subdivision.

The interesting thing is, however, that the politically incorrect homes sold in an average of 37 days while the others took an average of 50 days to sell. This seems counter-intuitive based on the price gap. The politically incorrect homes were an average of 1811 square feet while the others averaged 2144 square feet, which would account for the sales price gap. But smaller homes, in general, sell for a higher per square foot price, and in this case they don’t, which suggests something is out of balance.

Which tells me that there is a small subgroup of home buyers who actually want to live at a distinctive address, and will pay for the privilege. Abbey Road runs for three discontinuous blocks through The Village, about three and a half miles from me; not only are houses seldom for sale there, but the street signs don’t give it away.

7 comments

  1. Nicole »

    14 June 2010 · 7:56 pm

    Damn interesting info. Hadn’t thought much about street names previously, but I bet I notice them much more now.

  2. Dick Stanley »

    15 June 2010 · 4:04 am

    Speedway isn’t very speedy, what with all the traffic lights and stop signs. And the UT buses slow the single lane down even more.

    There’s a South Austin neighborhood with Civil War street names, mostly for battles. Though I never understood why the developer chose to use Malvern Hill, considering it was a Rebel defeat. Must have been a Yankee.

  3. fillyjonk »

    15 June 2010 · 7:15 am

    It’s sad that they don’t use biological terminology, because I would totally want to live on “Shannon-Weaver Theory of Information Drive.”

    It would probably be a very diverse neighborhood. (Ecologist humor, ar ar.)

  4. Brian »

    15 June 2010 · 8:52 am

    We have an “Electric Avenue” in Southgate KY!

    No extra charge for puting that song in your head!

  5. THE TEXAS SCRIBBLER » No PC name means slower sales »

    15 June 2010 · 12:51 pm

    […] Via Dustbury. […]

  6. Steve Crossland »

    25 June 2010 · 11:36 am

    This is Steve, the Realtor who did the Shady Hollow analysis. Now we’re buying a home on Rain Forest. My wife is emotionally attached to this name and, although “cool street name” wasn’t at all a criteria, and we would buy the same house no matter the street name, she is really, really happy that she’ll live on Rain Forest. I personally couldn’t care less.
    Steve

  7. Andrew Wasson »

    4 September 2010 · 8:23 am

    Thanks for picking up our piece on street names. I didn’t mention it in the article, but there is a subdivision in Hilliard, Ohio with the street named after shoe brands (Nike Drive, Saucony Drive, Converse Drive, Reebok Drive). What possessed that developer to name the streets like this? Did they run out of names on a deadline and were forced to pick the first thing that popped into their head? We’re they obsessed with sneakers?

    Steve Crossland — your research on street names is spot-on awesome.

    Andrew

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